Fresh from signing a two-year contract extension, Croatia coach Slaven Bilić announced his UEFA EURO 2008™ squad with two youngsters named as back-up.
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The 23-man party contains no major surprises, although AS Monaco FC midfielder Nikola Pokrivač has earned a call-up for the first time. At 22, he is enjoying a good run of form and has been identified as a real prospect in a holding role.
Bilić has likewise opted to bring emerging talents Pamić and Sharbini on board in back-up roles. "We chose 23 players and we are also taking two youngsters," explained the coach. "Not because we want to give them a chance to fit in or to thank them, but because they are young, talented and playing in the positions we need."
The former national-team defender also put the finishing touches on his two-year contract extension earlier today. "The final decision came after the [3-2 qualifying] victory [over England] at Wembley [last November], so the signing of the contract could have happened six or three months ago," said Croatian Football Federation president Vlatko Marković. "Instead, it happened today. We are very happy to have Slaven Bilić and his assistants."
The Croats face Austria, Germany and Poland in Group B at this summer's tournament and Bilić is hoping his squad will make a major impact. "We have a goal to continue with our good work," said the 39-year-old. "We have a difficult task ahead, but if we get a little luck we can end up being proud."
Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (FC Spartak Moskva), Vedran Runje (RC Lens), Mario Galinović (Panathinaikos FC).
Defenders: Dario Šimić (AC Milan), Robert Kovač (BV Borussia Dortmund), Josip Šimunić (Hertha BSC Berlin), Vedran Ćorluka (Manchester City FC), Dario Knežević (AS Livorno Calcio), Hrvoje Vejić (FC Tom Tomsk).
Midfielders: Niko Kovač (FC Salzburg), Jerko Leko (AS Monaco FC), Darijo Srna (FC Shakhtar Donetsk), Niko Kranjčar (Portsmouth FC), Luka Modrić (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Danijel Pranjić (SC Heerenveen), Ivan Rakitić (FC Schalke 04), Ognjen Vukojević (NK Dinamo Zagreb), Nikola Pokrivač (AS Monaco FC).
Forwards: Mladen Petrić (BV Borussia Dortmund), Ivica Olić (Hamburger SV), Ivan Klasnić (Werder Bremen), Igor Budan (Parma FC), Nikola Kalinić (HNK Hajduk Split).
Reserves: Manuel Pamić (FC Salzburg), Anas Sharbini (HNK Rijeka).